The Search for Love in Manhattan A gay odyssey of neurosis
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
I woke up late this morning and realized that if I took the time to shower I would be late for my step aerobics class. Since this one is taught by the really cute gayest step aerobics instructor ever, I didn't want to miss it, so I figured, what the hell, I'll just shower after class.
Unfortunately, since the walls of the step aerobics classroom are covered with mirrors, it became immediately and painfully apparent to me the second I walked into the room that, unshowered, I looked like a deathly ill heroin addict. I don't know why this should have bothered me, given that every week he sees me grimacing and sweating as I clomp around gracelessly on my step. But it was all I could do not to run from the room, claiming appendicitis.
But then after class I flirted with him in the steam room, so it all turned out okay.
Tonight at cheerleading practice I was supposed to pass the spirit stick on to next month's winner, but I forgot to bring it.
The astute among you will notice that I never mentioned being awarded the spirit stick in the first place. This is because, after bending all my mental and psychic energies to ensuring that I would win the spirit stick for April, when I did, I instantly felt I didn't deserve it. I've missed too many squad events, I can never go to the optional practices because I teach at the same time they're held, and I can't deal with going to the squad bonding nights because they're all held in bars and I hate hate hate bars, and so when they said my name, instead of leaping up to accept the spirit stick with the pride and joy that should have come with the knowledge that I had beaten all my competitors into the ground, I was so miserable that I wanted to throw myself out the window and die.
I wonder if I will ever let myself enjoy anything.
Okay, I'm going to say this once and once only, so listen up.
If you are invited to an orgy, you should assume, unless you are told otherwise, that the other guests will be interested in exploring various and sundry parts of your body, not just the ones traditionally associated with sex acts.
N.B.: Yesterday I posted four times, to make up for recent lapses. I am now officially caught up. The veritable orgy of blogging exhausted me, but I seem to have recovered.
The problem with having sex with a French person is that the French word for "yeah" ("ouais") sounds exactly like the English word "wait," just without the final "t," which one might leave off anyway if sufficiently distracted.
In the throes of passion, the course of action one takes upon hearing "yeah" is very, very different from the course of action one takes upon hearing "wait."
Luckily, the glamor one feels sleeping with a French person is more than enough to make up for any momentary awkwardness.
N.B.: This is my final post of four today. God, I'm beat.
In step aerobics class, I spend a lot of time and energy checking in the mirror to make sure that I'm holding and moving my hands and arms according to eighteenth century precepts of correct stage movement. This involves, among other things, curving one's arms slightly and holding one's hands either with the fingers slightly fanned out or with the third and fourth fingers together, slightly bent in towards the palm (or, if one wants to be particularly refined, with the ball of the third finger slightly on the nail of the fourth finger). There are also rules governing how one stands and walks, but they become impossible to obey once one starts dancing around a plastic platform.
I've been doing step aerobics classes for three weeks and it only occurred to me today that this wasn't just the most ordinary thing in the world.
When I was fourteen, my father, brother, and I went to Israel to visit our 88,000 cousins there. Very few of them spoke English, so my brother and I spent most of our time listening to my father talk to them in Yiddish, which we do not speak, and eating the bad food they cooked for us.
We spent one day, however, touring Masada, a desert mountain fortress that was the site of a famous Jewish rebellion in the first century A.D. and the subject of a terrific TV miniseries in 1981 starring Peter O'Toole and Peter Strauss. A thousand Jewish Zealots, led by Eleazar ben Yair, managed to resist a siege by 15,000 Roman troops for a year, and on the eve of their defeat, the Zealots all killed themselves rather than submit to Roman capture. They set fire to the fortress and everything in it except the food, to show that starvation had nothing to do with their fall.
We were in a tour group with several other people, including a family of four (two parents and two daughters) who had given the younger daughter the trip to Israel as her Bat Mitzvah present. (A Bar or Bat Mitzvah, for those of you who don't know, is the Jewish ceremony that marks a child's passage into adulthood at age thirteen.) As the tour guide showed us various parts of the fortress—"this is where the cisterns were, where they had enough water to last them another two years," etc.—it became clear that the younger daughter was very unhappy to be in Israel, where it was, she said, hot and boring. Her complaints to her older sister became more and more vociferous until we got to the room where the Zealots had drawn lots to see which ten men would kill the others, and which of those ten would in turn kill the remaining nine and then himself. We all stood in silence, even the younger daughter, and I was pleased that she wasn't so callous as to remain unmoved by the thought of such a defiant refusal to submit.
And then she turned to her sister and said, "I mean, we coulda been in Aruba!"
I tried to push her off the side of the mountain but unfortunately my father wouldn't let me.
I normally don't address political issues here, because thinking too much about the state of the world gets me so angry and depressed that I want to impale myself on a flaming tiki torch, but this is simply too priceless to be passed over. You need the sound on, but it's work-safe unless you happen to be employed by the Republican National Committee, the Department of Homeland Security, or 10 Downing Street.
N.B.: This is my first post of several today. See below for the juicy details.
All right. This has gone far enough. In recent weeks, there have been three days on which I've failed to post. I know it's about quality rather than quantity, blah, blah, blah, but my OCD is hounding me like an avenging Fury. (I tried to write something about the unposted posts following me like Hera's gadfly followed Io, allowing her no rest after Hera discovered that she was Zeus's latest infidelity, but for some reason—perhaps senility is finally setting in—I just couldn't construct the clause in any way that both made sense and had any shred of elegance at all. So I had to make do with the less apt but more straightforward Fury bit. Please forgive me.)
In any case, I've decided to post four times today, thereby getting rid of the backlog of unposted posts in one fell swoop. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. . . .
It seems to be my day for allusions that aren't quite right. Please forgive me. Maybe I'll be more awake later in the day.
Are all step aerobics instructors from another planet, or just the ones I've encountered over the last couple of weeks?
There was the woman yesterday who kept on seeming all perky and fun and then every once in a while would slip for a nanosecond into a growling yell that made me think the class was being led by the love child of Harvey Fierstein and Darth Vader. "And right basic, and V step right, around the world, and LUNGE!!!!!!!, and left basic, and TRAVEL!!!!!!!, and . . ." I was terrified she was going to eat me.
Then there's the guy who does the Wednesday morning class who has the best body I've ever seen on a human being and is also the gayest person I have ever met. Last week, at one point I thought the music sounded familiar but I couldn't quite place it. Then I realized it was a disco remix of the Titanic song. Then, during the cool-down at the end, the music was "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina"—the London cast, with Elaine Paige. I ran into him in the locker room afterwards and asked if he taught regularly, because I'd enjoyed the class a lot, and he said he was only in town for a few months, doing an off-Broadway show. I asked him which show, which was foolish of me, because of course he's doing Naked Boys Singing. The only way he could be gayer would be if he wore a Carmen Miranda hat during the class.
The one really disturbing thing about his class last week, though, was that, in the midst of all the steps with fun names like "around the world" and "revolving door," he introduced a step called "peg leg," which involved stepping on one foot while dragging the other along the floor in the manner of Captain Ahab. I had to do the peg leg about twenty times, and I cringed every time. I realize that step aerobics class is not necessarily the most appropriate venue for heightened sociolinguistic awareness, but come on. Peg leg?
Though I suppose "differently limbed" or "drag your prosthesis" don't have quite the same élan.
By the way, the climax of yesterday's dilemma has been delayed, so to speak: the straight guy who has been flirting mercilessly with me for a month couldn't go out last night for ice cream or a drink, because he had to catch an insanely early train. However, he did ask for a rain check in such a way as to make it clear that he meant it.
If I take the straight guy who has been flirting mercilessly with me for a month out tonight for a drink, I will have to spend a significant portion of the evening in a bar, which activity is only slightly more appealing to me than spending an evening, say, playing poker with the board of directors of the NRA. If he is tipsy, however, he might be more inclined to succumb to my advances.
If I take him out for ice cream, on the other hand, he might be less inclined to succumb to my advances, but I will get ice cream out of the deal.
Talk about being on the horns of a dilemma.
Maybe I should ask his wife what she thinks I should do.
1. Whenever anybody does me the honor of linking to my blog, I try to return the compliment. However, lately I've been a little bit scatterbrained (by "lately" I mean "for the last 24 years") and, though I've tried to keep up, I may have missed somebody. So if your blog links to mine and I haven't added a link to yours yet, please let me know and I'll rectify the situation posthaste.
2. If you live in or around New York City, you should come to my show tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 22) at 8:00. This is, for the moment at least, the last performance, so if you miss it you'll kick yourself later.
Where: Upstairs@Red, 356 West 44th Street between 8th and 9th
How Much: $15 cover + 2 drink minimum or $35 prix fixe dinner and show
Tickets: Call SmartTix at 212.868.4444 or go here.
3. After we close, I intend to begin implementing my plans for world domination. If you're not with me, you're against me.
In the late fourteenth century, the mystic Saint Julian of Norwich, twenty years after receiving sixteen visions during a severe illness, wrote them down as The Revelations of Divine Love.
This weekend, I am spending most of my time literally singing the praises of someone (Jesus) in whose name millions of my people (the Jews) have been murdered. At the same time, I am celebrating a holiday during which, for centuries, we have been accused of butchering Christian babies and using their blood to make matzah.
Though my mind doesn't usually dwell on things religious, this conjunction has put me in mind of a passage from Dame Julian's work:
As truly as God is our Father, so just as truly is he our Mother. In our Father, God Almighty, we have our being. In our merciful Mother, we are remade and restored. Our fragmented lives are knit together, and by giving and yielding ourselves through grace to the Holy Spirit, we are made whole. "It is I, the strength and goodness of fatherhood. It is I, the wisdom of motherhood. It is I, the light and grace of holy love. It is I, the Trinity. It is I, the unity. I am the sovereign goodness in all things. It is I who teach you to love. It is I who teach you to desire. It is I who am the reward of all true desiring. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."
Of course, if I were a girl named Julian I might write some weird shit too.
Today I spent seven hours in church. Tomorrow I will spend five hours in church. Sunday I will spend another seven hours in church. This week (Holy Week) is the only time during the year that I feel uncomfortable, as a Jew, singing in a church choir. When the congregation pretends to be the Jews and sings "Crucify him!" en masse it's hard not to feel a little, well, on edge.
And everybody gets so upset when I stand up in the middle of the service and shriek, "Your god is a lie!"
I first discovered gay pornography at the age of 13, on a trip to New York, where I bought a copy of Inches from a newsstand vendor who somehow managed to remain ignorant of the fact that I hadn't hit puberty yet. Inches was a revelation to me, as I had theretofore been limited pretty much to the strip club scene in Bachelor Party. There was a story about these two guys who had an affair with a guy who could suck himself off, and then at the end of the story the surprise twist was that the guy had a twin. I can't tell you how exciting I found this.
In any event, I returned home to South Carolina and started trying to figure out how I could get more of this stuff. I realized pretty quickly that the local purveyors of such material probably wouldn't be as accomodatingly blind as the newsstand vendor in New York. So I went to B. Dalton's, where they sold Inches and a few similar publications, picked up a copy surreptitiously, and stuffed it in my jacket when nobody was looking.
Before I left, however, I dropped a five dollar bill on the floor, because I knew that stealing was wrong.
N.B.: This is today's second post of two, sort of. For the full explanation, see the previous post. Oy.
Today, I had the following exchange with my friend L.N.:
Me: "Have you always doubted yourself as much as you do now?"
L.N.: "I don't know."
It was the funniest thing I experienced all day, even funnier than the moment in the reading of the musical I went to in which someone read the newspaper headline, "Entomologist of the Year Names Killer Bug After Best Friend."
N.B.: This is today's first post of two, sort of. But not really. Because I accidentally deleted yesterday's post, and so I'm posting it again today. But I'm also about to make a real post, a new and exciting one rather than one I've had to recycle because of my own incompetence.
As with Spider Man, you have to have the sound on to get the full effect; and, as with Spider Man, though this isn't exactly work-unsafe, your coworkers will definitely think something strange is going on.
Twice a year, the church at which I sing for money has a procession through Times Square. Today, Palm Sunday, was one of those times. This meant that for about twenty minutes, I walked through Times Square dressed in a cassock and surplice, carrying palm fronds, and trying not to choke on the incense from the two thurifers at the head of the procession, all while singing "all glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King" over and over and over again as hordes of tourists stared at me. I was supposed to be giving the palm fronds to passersby, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it.
Am I wrong to think that this isn't too far removed from Heaven's Gate?
Today, the gay cheerleading squad cheered for the New York Sharks, one of 21 teams in the Independent Women's Football League. They were playing the Montréal Blitz.
This meant that you had a bunch of fags jumping up and down waving pom-poms and a bunch of dykes in football helmets tackling each other. Plus, none of the fags had any idea what was going on in the game, so every once in a while we would start cheering "D-D-D-Defense," for example, and then have to stop and figure out if the Sharks were actually playing defense or offense at the moment. Eventually we gave up trying to figure the game out and just jumped up and down and looked pretty and got ice cream from the ice cream truck.
Pros of going to the third step aerobics class you've ever been to in your life:
1. You will get exercise.
2. You can pretend without too much guilt that it's the first step aerobics class you've ever been to in your life, and ask the really cute guy who's also taking the class for tips.
Cons of going to the third step aerobics class you've ever been to in your life:
1. You will get exercise.
2. When you seize the opportunity to position yourself right behind the cute guy, you won't realize that your complete inability to do any of the moves will make him think you are a total loser.
1. He will cruise you in the steam room.
1. Somehow you will lose track of him in between the steam room and getting out of the shower, thereby obligating yourself to go to every single step class they have in the coming week, including the one Saturday morning at 9:00, in hopes that he will show up again.
Last night, I saw A Year With Frog and Toad. Not only did I have a great time at the show, but I also now have a new theme song for my life:
Eating cookies, eating cookies,
I'm so happy eating cookies.
Cookies, cookies, cookies I adore.
Cookies, cookies, cookies, cookies,
I go kooky eating cookies.
Cookies, cookies, cookies--let's have more!
Because, let's face it, is there any problem so bad that a batch of really good homemade chocolate chip cookies can't fix it?
And I make some damn good homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Today, I got a phone call from a casting director named E.R. asking me to audition for a Columbia film student's thesis project.
I wouldn't find this so unusual except for the fact that the one and only time I have appeared on screen was at the tender age of five, in a commercial for the local chapter of the ASPCA. They took me through the pound and asked me to pick out some dogs I wanted to play with for the commercial. At the time, I was about one inch tall and absolutely terrified of dogs, so I picked all the dogs that were both tiny and asleep. The ASPCA people, figuring rightly that a commercial featuring me surrounded by dogs in comas wouldn't really further their cause, ignored my selections and found the four biggest, rowdiest dogs in the place. Then they led me to a tree stump, where I sat, paralyzed with fear, while the four dogs frolicked around me. The ASPCA people kept telling me to play with the dogs, but I really thought that if I attempted this I would die. Luckily, the camera was far enough away that the grimace of agony frozen on my face could pass, in those pre-cable-enhanced-reception days, for joy and happiness. Nevertheless, this experience put an end to any dreams I might have harbored of a lucrative career as a child actor, or, indeed, an actor of any sort. I appeared in various dramatic productions in college and am currently performing in my own show (which opened quite successfully last night, thank you), but the screen has not been a part of my dreams for over 25 years.
So imagine my surprise when I got a phone call today asking me to come in and audition for this film. I was completely baffled--why would somebody I didn't know from Adam (well, Eve, to be precise) want me to be in a movie?
The mystery was partially cleared up when E.R. told me who'd given her my name and what the part was. A cousin of mine is a very successful casting director in Hollywood--she cast, among other things, The Amazing Spider-Man (in production), Pretty Woman, Witness, On Golden Pond, and the original Star Wars--and is working at the moment in a New York casting office. She overheard E.R. talking about needing to find somebody to play a drag queen for free in a student film, and said, "Oh, you should call my cousin Faustus."
The thing is, she's never met me.
What stories could possibly be circulating about me in my non-nuclear family that my cousin who cast Star Wars thought instantly of me for the part of a drag queen?
As long as nobody talks to the tabloids when I win my best actor Oscar, I figure I'll be okay.
As I begin to feel better about myself and my life, I'm finding it more difficult to be amusingly caustic and bitter on this blog. Sure, I still post little barbs of misery, but somehow my heart just hasn't been in them lately. And since reading posts about my fabulous new haircut or how I actually spent three hours without worrying would cause any reasonably normal person to expire of boredom, I'm at something of a loss. I mean, I could start writing such posts and become so dull that my readership would disappear utterly, which would send me in turn into a spiral of depression and despair, which would put me in a position to start being funny and interesting again, but somehow I imagine there's got to be a better solution than that.
Though, of course, I'll have my fabulous new haircut to console me, so maybe I should give it a shot.
Confidential to Amanda: Thank you both for your comment and for the delicacy with which you proffered it. I have rectified the situation. I deleted the comment so as not to leave any evidence behind, but know that I appreciated it.
Okay, so you know when you're good friends with a guy, but really you're in love with him, but he's not in love with you, and he says, "I'll give you a call tonight," and you get home and find out they've turned your electricity off because you forgot to pay your bill, and so your answering machine isn't working, so you can't leave your apartment because what if he calls while you're gone and you get back and you have no way of knowing if he called or not, and you can't *69 him because maybe somebody else called after him while you were gone, and you certainly can't call him and say, did you call me?, and the electricity is off so you can't watch TV and you light a bunch of candles and try to read but there still isn't enough light, so you just sit there alone in your apartment in the dark and wait for him to call, which he never does?
My paternal grandfather was a staunch and loyal Communist his whole life. When Khrushchev denounced Stalin at the 20th Party Congress, my dad asked him, "So, Pop, what do you think of Stalin now?" My grandfather answered, "Khrushchev . . . that ingrate! After all Stalin did for him!"
Yesterday, I went to the Wiz's going out of business sale and, even though I have a negative bank balance, bought a DVD recorder, a portable DVD player, a digital camera, a Discman, a pair of noise-reducing headphones, and a Deborah Gibson CD.
In belated honor of April Fool's Day, which I completely forgot to celebrate yesterday, I am posting part of the April Fool's edition of the newsletter of my college's library, which I received the one year I worked there in a position important enough to warrant my getting the newsletter. The theme of this particular April Fool's newsletter was the startling discovery of a book called Cooking by Jean-Paul Sartre, written when the not-yet-famous existentialist philosopher was the chef in a small Left Bank bistro frequented by young French intellectuals. Here is an excerpt:
October 3 [year not indicated]
Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Although he seems never to eat, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home to work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.
October 4 There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like granite. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help.
Malraux suggested paprika.
October 6 I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarettes, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who threw up. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.
October 10 The more I do not eat, the more keenly I am aware of the void. Today I tried this recipe:
Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish.
Directions: Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light.
However, I asked myself: How can the eater recognize that the food denied to him is a tuna casserole and not some other dish? I am becoming more and more frustrated.
October 25 I have been forced to abandon the project of producing an entire cookbook. Rather, I now seek a single recipe which will, by itself, embody the plight of man in a world ruled by an unfeeling God, as well as providing the eater with at least one ingredient from each of the four basic food groups.
November 3 Some of the restaurant patrons complained that my breakfast special (a page out of Remembrance of Things Past and a blowtorch with which to set it on fire) did not satisfy their hunger. As if their hunger was of any consequence! "But we're starving," they say. So what? They're going to die eventually anyway.
November 15 Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word cake. I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. I have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.
November 30 Today was the day of the Bake-Off. Alas, things did not go as I had hoped. During the judging the beaver became agitated and bit Betty Crocker on the wrist. The beaver's powerful jaws, capable of felling a blue spruce in less than ten minutes, needless to say proved more than a match for the tender limbs of America's favorite homemaker.
I only got third place. L'enfer, c'est les autres chefs! Moreover, I am the subject of a rather nasty lawsuit.
Here is the postcard for my show, brilliantly designed by this man.
In other news, apparently the picture of Alan Cumming with my dog is in this week's Next magazine. I haven't seen the issue yet but my dog has and has developed quite a swelled head. It won't be long before she won't be seen with me.
When I was six, I picketed my house, hoping to be allowed to eat breakfast before getting dressed rather than after.
I marched back and forth in front of our front door, carrying a sign that said "BREKFAST FIRST DRESSED LATER."
My parents, being civil rights workers, didn't cross picket lines, and that was the only way into or out of our house,
so they were trapped there until they acceded to my demand.